What is a wake window?
We are always hearing “ follow the appropriate wake windows for your children and you will see results” but, in order to follow this methodology, you must know what that means for your child exactly. A wake window is the amount of time a baby or toddler can handle being awake in one stretch of time without showing signs of being over tired. The guidelines used to determine wake windows will vary between children, depending on growth, development, and if your baby was born prematurely or on time. I strongly recommend following wake windows to all of my clients, because “sleepy cues” are not always a reliable source. Your baby may be having an “off” day or a “fussier” day, but this doesn’t always mean they are tired. When we mistake this body language and put them down earlier for a nap or bedtime it may result in short naps, night wakening, early morning wakings, and daily routine disruptions. Some babies take weeks to develop sleepy cues (e.g., rubbing eyes), others may appear not to have them at all, and after a certain age (usually around 4 months old) these cues are typically not reliable. Knowing your child’s wake window will allow you to accurately know your child’s consistent nap times, which will lead to consistent days and nights.
Use this chart provided to find the appropriate wake window for your baby/toddler. This is just a guideline, but it is a very accurate way to help you get started finding out what works best for your child. If you find your baby is very fussy and tired by the beginning of the recommended wake window for their age, put them down at that time. If you find they are able to consistently stay awake longer without becoming fussy, then aim for the end of the wake window range for their age.
TIP: Re-Evaluate wake windows every month!
You will know you have found the perfect wake window when your baby/toddler is having consistent naps that last over 50 minutes, they are going to bed and falling asleep, and staying asleep great at bedtime.
What are wake times?
Once a child has reached a two or one nap schedule, we will often recommend following specific times, rather than wake windows. This approach is set by the time on the clock, and not by the stretch of time between sleeps. I recommend this method when toddlers reach a one nap schedule, but also may implement it for two nap schedules as well. Instead of naps being at different times throughout the day, no matter what time they wake (6:30am, 7:00am, or 7:30am) TIP: *I don’t recommend letting your baby who is on a 2 nap schedule to sleep past 7:30am* you will offer their naps and bedtime at the same time every day. When a child has reached a one nap schedule (between 14-18 months) The morning wake time doesn’t matter as much, and you can let them sleep in a little longer! YAY!
I really hope this information helps you narrow down the appropriate wake windows for your child. Make sure to re-evaluate those times monthly, and if you are still struggling with infant or toddler sleep know that I am here, and have programs to help you achieve solid, consistent daytime, and nighttime sleep for you and your entire family!